Just back from an exciting weekend at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, I met so many interesting people, each one with a unique story. The one question I got most from them was, “How did you get into racing?”.
Here is my answer:
When I first moved to Indianapolis, I had never been to a car race. Nor had I ever watched one on TV. I didn’t even know the difference between a NASCAR and an IndyCar.
I knew the name Mario Andretti. I occasionally used the phrase “pit stop.” And I had at least a vague idea of what it meant. But that was about the extent of my racing knowledge.
My husband (my fiancée at the time) had a suite at the track for Carburetion Day. I went with him for the first time in 2005, primarily to socialize.
When the IndyCar practice started, he took me up in the stands to watch. And I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. The cars (which looked more like rockets), were flying around the track. And making a high-pitched wail when they did it. Even the smell of the burning rubber was intoxicating.
I couldn’t stop watching. I started asking all kinds of questions and reading about it in the paper. On race day that Sunday, I listened to the Indy 500 live on the radio. And then watched the tape-delayed broadcast. Dan Wheldon, a young, good-looking British guy won the race. Danica Patrick, a rookie, became the first woman to ever lead a lap. I was hooked. I even watched the banquet on Monday night.
By the following spring, my husband was asking me which teams the drivers were on. I loved the month-long festival atmosphere that was the month of May in Indy. The year I put checkered flags in my flower pots, my husband told me it was official. I was a Hoosier.
The respect I have for the sport, the drivers, the track, and the tradition is immense. Especially for a girl who grew up around horses in Minnesota, not race cars in Indiana.
Still, every time I pull into the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, and every time I hear an IndyCar zoom around the track, it gives me goosebumps. And it brings me back to my first years in Indianapolis.
As it turns out, a place so rich in history would help me write my own.
I watched qualifications last weekend from pit lane as a credentialed social media blogger for IMS. And I couldn’t help but think about the way it all began.
It was like in Pretty Woman, when Richard Gere takes Julia Roberts to the opera house. He tells her, “People’s reaction to opera the first time they hear it is extreme. They either love it or they hate it. If they love it, they will always love it. If they don’t, they may learn to appreciate it, but it will never become part of their soul.”
On Carb Day 2005, I fell in love with IndyCar.
And it’s been part of my soul ever since.